SES Moves Satellite To Help Thaicom Secure Orbital Slot

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PARIS — Satellite fleet operator SES has moved its 15-year-old NSS-5 satellite to 50.5 degrees east as part of a broader effort it plans with Thai satellite operator Thaicom, SES Chief Executive Romain Bausch said.

NSS-5, which carries a C- and Ku-band payload, had been operated at 20 degrees west in geostationary orbit until July, when it began a slow drift to the Thai-registered slot. It arrived there in early September.

The Thai government and Thaicom had been concerned that they would lose their rights to the 50.5-degree slot if they did not find an in-orbit satellite before this fall.

Thailand had asked the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a United Nations affiliate based in Geneva that regulates orbital slots and frequencies, to extend the deadline given Thailand’s recent spate of bad luck at the 50.5-degree position.

Thaicom had at different times repositioned its Thaicom-3 and Thaicom-2 satellites at the 50.5-degree slot in an attempt to meet the minimal ITU requirements for occupying an orbital position. But both satellites encountered technical problems that the ITU agreed required them to be retired immediately to ensure the safety of neighboring satellites.

Thai officials assured the ITU that they were not warehousing the slot, and that they fully intended to occupy it with a bona fide satellite system.

“Taking the above into account, and in particular the multiple satellite failures which may be considered as a ‘force majeure’ case,” the ITU in June agreed to give Thailand more time to secure a satellite.

Luxembourg-based SES had an ITU reservation of its own at a nearby position and has agreed to place NSS-5 at the Thai position.

“Luxembourg has a filing … and we are helping Thailand and Thaicom meet their bringing-into-use obligations,” Bausch said Sept. 12 at the World Satellite Business Week conference organized by Euroconsult.

“Bringing into use” is ITU terminology for the requirement that a functioning satellite begin broadcasting in the reserved frequencies before the slot is considered activated.

“We both have filings and we are looking at different possibilities for using the slot with Thaicom,” Bausch said. All kinds of possible cooperation are being looked at, he said.

“This is an example of how we hope to work with national and regional operators to help them develop their business,” Bausch said. “A lot of them have been financed by Coface or the Ex-Im Bank, or with support from China. We want to work with these operators in ways that are in their interests and in our interests.”

 

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